There have been many dodgy dolphin and hibiscus shaped contributions in the name of ‘surf art’. Once a byword for something psychedelic made by a beach bum, the genre has transcended its Polynesian roots and come to represent a whole body of salty work inspired, in some way, by the culture of sliding sideways.
Basque Country collective Agua de Surf are again breathing new life into the concept with their distinctly urban take on surf-related creativity. Their touring exhibition Surf City – which lands in Bilbao today, December 13 to February 10 – exhibits some of the many surfers and artists whose sea experiences are anything but tropical. We caught up with curator Marc Conca to find out more.
What exactly is Surf City?
Surf City is a travelling exhibition organised by Agua de Surf – a collective celebrating creativity and community. We try to show the push and pull of Surf vs. City through different artistic disciplines such as photography, fashion, art direction, design and illustration, with the collaboration of renowned artists and surfers on the national and international scene. The intention of the exhibition is to promote these artists and give them a space to exhibit their work to the public.
Why was it started?
Over the decades surfing has become a huge industry that generates billions of dollars worldwide. From remote and exotic beaches of Hawaii, surfing has made its way down to the most cosmopolitan cities in the world: New York, Sydney, Newcastle, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona. Everywhere, citizens escape their daily routines, stress, traffic, pollution and boring crises. In an instant, thanks to surfing, you can teleport yourself to paradise. So Surf City was born out of frustration with being born in the wrong place in a big city, away from the wonderful paradise showed in magazines, television and through the windows of travel agencies. But a grey surf city can still fill you with hope. The idea for Surf City was born in a traffic jam, surrounded by exhaust pipes, in winter. We came back from a surf session, full of energy, and felt the need to show the opposite side of the surf, our reality. Surf City is our way to escape and rail against the system and the surf industry.
How do you hope it will not have an impact?
We want to present another perspective on the experience of surfing – a perspective that simply wants to show, through art and creativity, that surfing is more than a fashionable sport. Carrying a surfboard under your arm is not a social position.
What’s the surf photography scene like in the Basque Country?
Honestly, in my opinion, surf photography, nationwide, lacks creativity and I think we all follow the same patterns that come from abroad.
Who’s involved in Surf City and what does everyone do?
Agua de Surf is a collective that organises and curates exhibitions. We are an independent movement – just a few people and some collaborators who selflessly help us in any way they can. We work very hard to organise events and just have fun and enjoy the result, no matter what. The real honour belongs to the artists involved. Thanks to them, all this is possible.
How can people get involved/show support?
We selected artists who we think fit well in the Surf City concept and we asked them to leave their mind free and express whatever they want, openly. We find artists in different ways. Their work usually catches our attention. It is a very simple process and any artists within the surf art world, any talent is welcome. We seek work outside the ordinary. If artists are interested in participating, they can contact us through our Facebook page and send us their work. We love to meet new artists.
Will there be more exhibitions Surf City?
We hope to make many more! Our vision from the beginning has been to make two exhibitions per year and in different cities. This is no easy task. But this can be possible thanks to the support and enthusiasm of people. The first edition took place in June 2013, it was in Barcelona where we had a very good reception from the public. Now, we deal with the second edition in Bilbao, which is an important city in the history of surfing in Spain. This collective exhibition will remain open to the public during two months in the Belaza Gallery, curated by Naira Goicoetxea. You can appreciate the incredible work of 19 artists with different disciplines around the Surf City concept. As for the future? Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Biarritz, San Sebastian, Cadiz, Tokyo, who knows?! But we will be back to Surf City attack!
You can keep up to date with the Surf City exhibitions on the Agua de Surf Facebook page.